“Zacchaeus, come down immediately” (Luke 19:5).
He was a little man with a big problem.
Jesus was coming to town but the crowds kept Zacchaeus, who was a short man, from seeing him. Every Sunday School child knows the song that goes with the story and tells us what happened next:
Zacchaeus was a wee little man
And a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree
For the Lord he wanted to see.
As the chief tax collector of Jericho, he would not have been a popular man. Since he had cheated many people, he had many enemies. So climbing up in a sycamore tree was both ingenious and prudent.
What happened next surprised everyone, friend and foe alike:
And as the Savior passed that way
He looked up in that tree
And He said, “Zacchaeus, you come down!
For I’m going to your house today
For I’m going to your house today.”
Who was the most hated man in Jericho? Probably Zacchaeus.
Who is the least likely person to want to see Jesus? Probably Zacchaeus.
What house is Jesus least likely to visit? You know the answer.
Zacchaeus climbed the tree because his heart told him he needed what Jesus had to offer. Deep inside he knew he needed forgiveness and a new life. Jesus came to the house of the most hated man in town because Jesus cares nothing for public opinion. He will eat with a Pharisee or a tax collector (or with anyone else, for that matter) because he came to seek and to save the lost (v. 10).
Jesus makes the first move (v. 5). That’s grace.
Zacchaeus welcomes him gladly (v. 6). That’s faith.
This is the grace of God saving the worst of sinners. Jesus meets a man the people despise, saves him, and then changes him. It’s as clear a picture of salvation by grace as you will find in the New Testament. Zacchaeus had done nothing to deserve dinner with Jesus, but he’s the one Jesus singles out. He illustrates the words of an old hymn:
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
Salvation could hardly be simpler than this. When Jesus calls, receive him gladly.
Zacchaeus made a lifetime of mistakes and had many things to make right, but he was smart enough to come to Jesus. The little man with a big problem turns out to be the smartest man in town.
Gracious God, you are amazing! You save people who don’t deserve it. Thank you for making room for me in your family. Amen.
Dr. Ray Pritchard is the founder and President of Keep Believing Ministries.